Brett Gardner is arguably one of the fastest players in baseball today, so its sort of weird that he does not capitalize on his speed with more sacrifice hits. To put things in perspective, Gardner led the majors with a 9.2 Speed Score in 2009 and only recorded six successful sacrifice bunts. Meanwhile, Adam Everett posted a Speed Score of 3.9 and had more than twice as many sacrifice bunts as Gardner with 15. Gardner has apparently struggled with the thought and the technique of bunting, but that may change in 2010:
Brett Gardner hits during the winter at the Charleston Baseball Acadamy, about 10 minutes from his South Carolina home, tweaking his swing and keeping sharp. This offseason, Gardner spent a lot of time working on his bunting skills, too, and he’d like to develop that into a weapon this year.
“That’s the good thing about hitting off a (pitching) machine,” Gardner said yesterday, after his first precamp workout at the Yankees’ minor-league complex. “You can bunt 50 or 100 balls in 15 or 20 minutes. No time. I’ve been bunting a lot, working on that more and trying to bring that back into my game.
“Now it’s just a matter of being comfortable enough with it not to be scared to do it in a game and have confidence that I’m going to put it where I want it. Not only can it be a tool to get on base, but it keeps defenses honest and can bring the corners in and maybe I can shoot some balls by them.” (source)
I suppose this could be considered a non-story, but I happen to think Brett Gardner could be an important part of the offense next season. If he learns to implement the bunt with a higher success rate, he will have more opportunities to wreak havoc with his base running. He’ll also help advance batters like Robinson Cano (.352 OBP in 2009) and Nick Swisher (.371 OBP in 2009) or get on base ahead of Derek Jeter. I’m a little concerned that Gardner has struggled with something like this, but I’m glad he’s putting the work in to improve an aspect of his game that will make him an even better player.